A Brick in the Valley

D.A. Carson on the Dizzying Change of the 20th Century
November 30, 2007, 8:58 pm
Filed under: Quotes

In 2005, D.A. Carson was asked to give a lecture in Australia on the future of preaching in the 21st Century.  That forced Carson to picture the kind of change that might happen in a century.  So, he reflected on how things have changed since 1905.

It is mind boggling to reflect on the littany he laid out:

“If in 1905 I had been asked to address the challenges facing the twentieth-century pulpit, would I have managed to reflect on two world wars, the great depression, the end of the British Empire, the rise and fall of fascism and of (much of) communism, Vietnam, the deployment of nuclear weapons, men on the moon, the digital world, jet travel, global economics, the reshaping of communities by the impact of the automobile, the Holocaust and other instances of genocide (including that perpetrated by buffoons Idi Amin and ideologues like Pol Pot), massive expansion of the church in Africa and China, horrendous accounts of martyrdom and unbelievably encouraging medical advances, the resurgence of militant Islam, the remarkable stiffening of the process of secularization in much of the West, the unforeseen yet massive expansion of Pentecostalism and the charismatic movement, and the dawning of that array of perspectives and epstemologies we label post-modernism?

And what should be said about the theological moves from widespread residual conffesionalism through the classic liberal theology of the early decades of the twentieth century to Barthianism, ecumenism, and post-colonial theology,a nd the rise of major theological colleges and seminaries?  The shift in Christian numbers from the North to the South and from the West to the East has still not been adequately explored.  The transformation of social structures brought about by advances in contraception and multiplying abortions have combined to give us throughout Europe, and now increasingly elsewhere (e.g. Japan), an birth rate below the 2.1 figure needed to sustain a stable population.  We have traveled from the horse and buggy to supersonic speed, from telegraph and early telephones to instantaneous transmission of gigabytes of information, from rural life and pace to megalopolises, from realism to surrealism to virtual worlds.”[1]

[1] D.A. Carson, “Challenges for the Twenty-First-Century Pulpit,” in Preach the Word: Essay on Expository Preaching in Honor of R. Kent Hughes, ed. Leland Ryken and Todd A. Wilson (Wheaton: Crossway, 2007), 172-173.


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